sergeant. Stephen Rhodes said he was in the right place at the right time.
It was late Saturday afternoon, the day before Mother’s Day, and the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries officer was patrolling the coast near Timbalier Bay when he was informed of the overfishing of shrimp in Grand Isle.
“I had no intention of even being on Grand Isle that day,” he said.
Citing the fishermen, Rhodes said he saw something dangerous – a small aluminum boat was maneuvering through the rock jetties to meet a family on the beach. Due to the confined space, the waves become rough and it is more difficult for a boat to maintain control.
“At first I thought, ‘This is crazy! What is this guy doing? He’s going to flood his boat,” Rhodes said.
The yachtsman was able to control his boat, the family boarded the ship and Rhodes went back to writing the note.
“The situation wasn’t safe, but it’s settled. So it’s okay,” Rhodes said. “I kept looking up and noticed the boat had come off the piers. I thought, ‘Okay. He’s safe, he’s fine. It’s not something I need to worry about.
He went back to the ticket, then someone shouted that he had seen the boat capsize.
Race against time:
“I knew it was the game”
“I turn around and look and – my best guess is 400 to 500 yards past the rock jetties in the Gulf of Mexico – I could see that the boat had rolled over and people were starting to climb onto the hull of the boat. boat,” Rhodes said.
“At that point, I knew it was the game,” he said.
Rhodes said he started fleeing the beach to get back to his patrol car, but it was over 1,000 meters away. But as he was running, some good Samaritans who were riding an ATV saw him and offered to drive him back to his truck.
“I said, ‘Man, I just did a boat flip.’ They said, ‘Come on board, we’ll take you to your truck,'” Rhodes said.
He said the Good Samaritans offered to stay with him and his truck until he could launch his boat. Rhodes said their actions bought him “huge” time to get him into the Gulf.
Rhodes fired alongside the overturned boat. Although the adults only spoke broken English, he learned that the 7-year-old girl was still missing and most of the family members could not swim.
“She must have been trapped under the ship”
“Right away they said, ‘Our sister is in the water, you have to help us! ‘” Rhodes said.
Acting quickly, he loaded the people from the overturned ship onto his boat. In the aftermath, one of the girl’s brothers said she was wearing a life jacket.
“And instantly I knew the only place for this little girl would be under the ship,” Rhodes said. “She must have been trapped under the ship.”
The girl’s family was inconsolable. In another coincidence, Rhodes noticed another boat nearby and called for help. He needed another person to hold his boat in place so he could search for the girl. And so, another Good Samaritan came to his aid, moving from his boat to Rhodes to hold him in place.
Rhodes removed his heavy gear and jumped into the Gulf. Clinging to the edge of the boat, he knew he couldn’t safely swim under the boat to search for the girl.
“Again, the thought came to mind: Start using your legs. Stretch under the ship and start feeling with your legs. You have greater reach with your legs,” he said. -he declares.
Rhodes made his way from the back of the boat to the front where he smelled what he thought was the little girl.
“I took a few deep breaths, dove under the boat, felt where I thought I felt her, and grabbed her with part of her PFD, and pulled her with me,” Rhodes said.
‘When you see life coming back, there are no words’
But when the pair surfaced, Rhodes said something was wrong.
“I could see she was gone. Her eyes were open, but they weren’t focused,” he said.
The Good Samaritan guarding his boat pulled the girl on board. Rhodes said they removed his life jacket but were not starting CPR. He swam to his boat, said “give her to me” and started trying to revive the girl.
“After the second set of breaths, I saw the blank stare correct itself. I saw his eye return to focus,” he said.
He put his hand to his chest and felt his heart “go a million miles a minute, just racing.”
“I kept my hand on his chest for a few minutes and felt it rise as the breath entered,” Rhodes said.
Rhodes said he quickly returned to Bridge Side Marina, while radioing that he needed EMS immediately. What he didn’t know was that the paramedics were already in place, ready at the marina and waiting to pick up the girl.
Robert Vegas witnessed Rhodes race to the marina.
“He was just going full speed towards the boat launch,” Vegas said. “I thought he was going to end up in the parking lot.”
“I took my ship and threw it into the launch, and the EMS truck was literally there. And as all of this happened, the good Samaritan who was with me on my ship had the girl in her arms and handed her over to EMS,” Rhodes said.
“I jumped in with the little girl in her arms. It just gives me chills talking about it,” Vegas said. “He looked like he was in a movie like Superman, you know. A superhero, you know.”
The LDWF said paramedics were able to stabilize the girl and she was then airlifted to New Orleans Children’s Hospital. The agency said she is expected to make a full recovery. The girl was back home in Baton Rouge on Monday and is doing well, her uncle said.
“When you see life coming back… there are no words,” Rhodes added. “It’s humiliating.”
“I happened to be closer,” Rhodes said.
Rhodes said Saturday was not the first time he had saved a life. Years before he was an LDWF agent, he said he saved a friend from choking by performing a Heimlich maneuver.
“These two incidents, you can’t compare them,” he said. “Knowing she was gone and seeing her come back is a whole other thing.”
The LDWF said a total of nine people were on the boat when it capsized around 6.40pm. The agency thanked the Good Samaritans who stepped up to help Rhodes during his rescue and bought time that likely saved his life.
“We are extremely proud of the actions of Sgt. Rhodes. He did an exceptional job using his good judgment and training to help save the life of this young girl and the other occupants of the capsized vessel,” Col. Chad said. Hebert “I would also like to thank all of the Good Samaritans who assisted in this successful rescue. Sergeant. Rhodes was alone on patrol and these Good Samaritans helped him complete this rescue more quickly. This saved time probably resuscitated the young lady.
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